Newly Found Glaciers on Mars Could Support Future Colonies

By the 2030s NASA hopes to send human explorers to Mars the surface of which is seen in a May 2017 handout

Water-rich sites on Mars could be crucial for future missions to Red Planet

"It is likely that ice near the surface is even more extensive than detected in this study", Dundas said.

Mars likely held flowing water during its ancient past, possibly even vast oceans of it.

The new data, collected in high-resolution three-dimensional images from two USA satellites, reveal at least eight locations where massive shelves of water ice are deposited from just below the Martian surface as far deep as 100 meters, or roughly 330 feet, according to the report, which was published in the journal Science. Water ice can be used, of course, for life support as well as for making fuels for surface and space vehicles. "We'd seen ice exposed by the craters. but finding such clean exposures that weren't disrupted by an impact was quite surprising". The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice. In any case, this new research, distributed today in the diary Science, uncovers key data about the ice's layering, thickness and virtue. However, once the buried ice becomes exposed to Mars' atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it "retreats", due to sublimation of the ice directly from solid form into water vapor. "The imagery results are especially compelling, and you can see the ice right there in the enhanced colour images".

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"It's always been hypothesized that this mantle was a mix of ice and dust based on things like its limited latitudinal extent and how it becomes increasingly eroded as you move from the poles toward the equator", Harrison told Gizmodo.

Some locations on Mars are known to have water ice just below the surface, but how much has remained unclear.

In the latest issue of Science, researchers confirmed the discovery of easily accessible water ice located beneath the planet's surface. Then we have some pretty exciting news for you.

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"It's looking more encouraging that water ice could be available at depths shallow enough that could be used as resources for human missions to Mars", Angel Abbud-Madrid, the director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines, told National Geographic. These locations were not found on Mars' polar ice caps, where "hostile conditions" would prevent astronauts from scavenging the Martian ice, but in more friendly areas, NASA said. "These would make excellent candidates for human exploitation, should we ever go there".

Thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle; erosion in these regions creates scarps that expose the internal structure of the mantle. Excessive salinity is a potential problem that would require future colonists to bring clunky desalination devices to the Red Planet. We simply don't know, but it's important that we find out. As they continue scanning the surface of Mars for other regions with ice, they hope to compare the conditions of differing regions to get a better understanding of how each spot is unique.

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